Best fine metal files

Long time reader, first time poster etc.

I’m looking for recommendations for a good quality fine metal file, price not really an object. I’ve tried most of what my local HD has in stock, but I’m looking for something that will last a long time to sharpen delicate objects. I have a couple good-but-dull splitting axes to restore, as well as ice axe picks and other metal tools that I don’t really want to touch witha bench grinder.

fred will be along shortly with a comprehensive response!

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Thanks Big_Adam

It is not so much that the quality of what they sell in Home Depot is poor – but files in the general hardware trade have seemingly gone down a notch (or maybe it’s just my giving into nostalgia for the bygone days). Files and perhaps to a lesser extent their cousins (Floats an Rasps) were never meant to be lifetime tools. While “file steel” is quite a bit harder (as it needs to be) to “cut” other steel – it still wears and/or loads up. Cleaning after use with a file card/brush can help to prolong life and keep the file cutting – and you should never store them in a way that one file can abrade another. Another issue is that some softer metals – notoriously aluminum – will load the teeth of a file make it it cut inefficiently if at all. There are special files – with different tooth patterns designed for soft metals. A file will not last forever - except perhaps in infrequent use.

Most “toolguys” know that files come in different patterns or cuts. Typical of a sharpening file is what’s called a “bastard cut” in a shape called a “Mill File”. For harder metals – you might wish to switch to what’s called a second-cut file.

Here’s a link to a file card – brush combination:

When a file dulls – it is impractical to re-sharpen – you just scrap them or if you are an artist – maybe turn them into objet d’art.

Nicholson (Cooper Tools) still is a major supplier, as is Simonds. Simonds has a good tutorial web page:

The Wikipedia page is also interesting – adds some details but leaves out others:

In the old days – my favorite supplier was Heller Brothers (Nu-Cut Files) for general purpose files and Grobet (Swiss) or Nicholson for needle and precision files. Today – it seems like lots of files come from India – via companies like Mercer Abrasives.

There are companies that sell – what they call Axe files – and I’m not sure that they are anything special – perhaps with the exception of having a convenient shape:

Pferd – a German Brand maker – gets some mixed reviews – but might be worth a try: